A Basic Explanation

A qualifying event is just insurance-speak for certain changes in your life, such as a marriage, the loss of a job, or a move to another state. These types of life changes can make you eligible for a special enrollment period — a window of time during which you can sign up for new insurance or change insurance plans — outside of open enrollment.

Other things can be qualifying events, too — like experiencing technical difficulties that prevented you from signing up for health insurance before the last open enrollment deadline.

Expert Advice About Qualifying Life Events

Here are some of the most common qualifying events, which might make you eligible for a special enrollment period:

  • Lost coverage (e.g., due to losing your job)
  • Got married
  • Had a divorce or separation (if it causes you to lose your coverage)
  • Are a survivor of domestic violence
  • Had a baby or adopted a child (varies from state to state)
  • Moved to another county or zip code (where different plans are available)
  • Had processing errors with your enrollment
  • Had a change in immigration status
  • Had a change in household income that affects your eligibility for tax credits

If you’ve experienced a qualifying event, don’t waste time. Start shopping for new coverage as soon as you can. Most special enrollment periods last 60 days from the date of the qualifying life event. You may be asked to provide proof of the event.

What else you need to know

With some types of coverage, you can enroll anytime. Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) don’t limit their enrollment periods. You can apply for either program at any time during the year. If you think you might qualify for Medicaid or CHIP, apply on healthcare.gov or your state’s marketplace. Also, if you’re Native American or an Alaska Native you can sign up any time during the year.

Canceling your plan on purpose does not count. Voluntarily ending your current plan or being dropped by an insurer for not paying your premiums is not considered a qualifying event, and will not qualify you for special enrollment.